Monday, June 30, 2008

What Do You Get for a 232-Year Anniversary?

I know that the first anniversary is paper. The 25th anniversary is silver. The 50th gold. But what about the 232nd? Friday will mark the 232nd anniversary of the signing of the Declaration of Independence . . . provided I did my grade school math correctly. Given the recent attention paid to the critically acclaimed HBO miniseries John Adams (great series, though not for young kids, pretty brutal tar and feathering scene, among others) people's interest in all things Revolutionary have been rekindled. (Programming note: HBO is running a marathon of the Adams series all day on July 4.)

I live in Massachusetts, therefore my view of the Revolutionary War may be skewed because, as one might expect, the Colonial era gets lots of play here. We have, count 'em, not one, but two tricornered hats in our house, including one that my husband bought our boys when they got up in the wee hours of the morning this spring to go to Lexington to see the reenactment of the battle on the Lexington green, preceded by Paul Revere's famous ride, on Patriots Day, a day off for public employees in Massachusetts. (My daughter and I slept late and watched the early Boston Red Sox game on TV.)

But what gets lost during the modern American celebration of July 4 -- particularly this year because it falls on a Friday, which means it'll be a three-day weekend filled with barbecue bonanzas across the fruited plain -- is the actual document whose approval we're commemorating. Now I'm the first to admit that I'm a tad bit of a history/politics geek who really admires documents like the Declaration of Independence and am fond of reading it aloud to my three kids when it's published in the Boston Globe each year . . . even if the kids do lose interest by the second paragraph.

However this year is an election year, some consider it an historic election year. We have the summer Olympics coming up soon. And, lest we forget, we have active duty troops fighting and dying on behalf of our nation in multiple fronts overseas. So why not -- just for a moment before your barbecue, ballgame, fireworks or celebratory beverage(s) of your choice -- recall the reason for the day:

We hold these truths to be self-evident: That all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness; that, to secure these rights, governments are instituted among men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed; that whenever any form of government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the right of the people to alter or to abolish it, and to institute a new government, laying its foundation on such principles, and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their safety and happiness.

There endeth the history lesson. Go forth (no pun intended) and glory in your American freedoms and be thankful we don't live in a country where armed militias come to your house and force you at gunpoint to go and vote for someone who you do not support under penalty of injury or death, as happened in another corner of the globe just a few days ago. Voting in America, circa 2008, is a walk in the park by comparison.
Image credit: History Channel.

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